Jerame Davis

The Day Democracy died...

Filed By Jerame Davis | June 30, 2005 3:10 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
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Of course, many of us believe that was December 12, 2000 when the Gore v. Bush Supreme Court decision installed ShrubCo as the first unelected president in history. However, the final nail in the coffin - the proof the people are no longer free - will happen when Time magazine hands over the name of a confidential source to save their reporter, Matthew Cooper, from jail. In America? you may ask...Yes. In the land of the free, US District Court Judge Thomas Hogan, with the implicit backing of the US Supreme Court, is threatening to jail Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller for not revealing a confidential source in the outing of CIA Agent Valerie Plame.

It's a sad, sad day for freedom when a reporter cannot keep confidential sources. What's worese, this leak came from the White House, which is well known. It was originally reported by Bob Novak, not Cooper or Hogan, which is also well known. Where is the warrant for Novak? Or Karl Rove? Why isn't the original source being held to the same standard as these other two reporters?

Mark it in your calendar folks. The day Time follows through with handing over this information is indeed the day Democracy is officially dead. Time is making a grave mistake. The US Supreme Court made an even worse mistake. And if you aren't outraged by this, you aren't paying enough attention.

First a fake election and usurpation of power...Then an illegal war that has killed tens of thousands...Then illegal torture and invisible prisoners...Unending terror alerts during the 2004 election cycle and not one since...And now the threat (and ability) to jail journalists for not revealing their sources. What's next?


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AUTHOR: steph Mineart

DATE: 7/02/2005 11:39:31 AM

I was casting about for the best way to write this, when I happened to read someone else's letter to the editor-- someone who said what I was thinking only more eloquently (John Martellaro to Jim Poynter):You know in your head that the principle is right. In your heart, you have nothing but contempt for the individuals who are taking advantage of it for their own selfish ends.There can be no debate that confidential sourcing is essential to good journalism and that journalists – and those who benefit from its proper execution – should stand fast for that principle. There also should be no debate that Cooper and Miller engaged in astoundingly bad judgment in granting anonymity to sources in this particular case.The whole purpose of anonymous sourcing is to level the playing field between the powerful and the powerless. Anonymity is supposed to be granted to sources who fear some kind of retribution for speaking the truth -- being fired, being sued, being assaulted, etc.It was never intended to be used the way it has been utterly abused in recent decades by the Washington press corps: to gain a competitive advantage against other reporters. Their passion is not for the public interest but for career-advancing scoops, and to get them, they are willing to give the powerful a shield that allows these Washington mandarins to engage in political gamesmanship with their peers, to float trial balloons, to spread disinformation without consequences or -- in the case of Valerie Plame -- to commit a felony offense in order to exact political punishment against opponents further down on the political food chain.http://poynter.org/forum/?id=letters


AUTHOR: Jerame Davis

DATE: 7/02/2005 10:15:00 PM

In essence, I would agree on the misuse of confidential sources. However, neither of these reporters actually did the crime...That was Robert Novak, who - by some miracle of being conservative and not with the NY Times or Time magazine - is not being held to the same standard.Miller, the woman from the Times, didn't ever write an article and Cooper was only reporting on Novak's story with the help of an anonymous source of his own. It was Novak that committed the crime here. He broke the story. He was the first to use her name. He was the man that outed Valerie Plame, but he isn't being asked for his source. He's admitted as much.Miller never wrote a story, but had a source. So we're going to hold liable those reporters that have information and don't use it too?It's questionable whether Cooper would have broken the story himself, but was free to discuss it once Novak had named Plame in his column. I just don't see how these two people are looking at jail time while others more close to the source (but friendlier with the administration) aren't getting jack.I do not think these two have any compelling reason to give up their sources. They are secondary players. Bob Novak should be the one in trouble. He should have never used her name in his column and is well seasoned enough to know exactly what he was doing when he did.It is an injustice when it's applied differently to different people, no matter how you look at it. It's worse when it's the guy that committed the original offense gets nothing out of the deal while two people who did work on the story after he broke it are looking at doing time.


AUTHOR: steph Mineart

DATE: 7/03/2005 12:25:17 PM

Sure, we should hold them liable, especially because they aren't legitimately protecting a whistleblower for a story they wrote. They're protecting a source for personal gain; to keep their hand in with the White House, in hopes that they'll have access to the WH in the future.The reason the prosecutor is going after Miller and Cooper is for exactly that reason; they're more likely to cave than Novak because they didn't break the info, and are more likely to give up the source. If Miller and Cooper had actually been jailed, Novak would have been next. They were just playing the easiest card in the deck first.That's also why Time caved and gave the information, without allowing Cooper to do it. Cooper can claim he refused to give up the name, and still keep his political points, but Time can correct a situation where journalist privilege is being abused by a White House that deserves to have it's hand slapped.